How to Win (and Lose) With Class

By Kendall Kipp | March 15, 2019, 7:49 p.m. (ET)

Kendall Kipp
Kendall Kipp goes for the kill at the 2017 FIVB Girls U18 World Championship. Kendall will join Stanford's team in the fall of 2019.

Originally published in Volleyball USA, Winter 2018

While the goal in volleyball is to be the first team to score 25 points, it’s certainly not all that matters. Sportsmanship is just as important, if not more, than the skills and talents displayed in the game. Sportsmanship can be shown in many ways, and one of the main ways is by being humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Winning a tough match is one of the best feelings in the world, and celebrating the victory with your team makes it even better.

You don’t have to try to hide your excitement after a victory. However, you must also be respectful of the team that you just beat. We’ve all lost matches and know how upsetting and painful it can be. The last thing a losing team needs is for someone to make it worse by rubbing it in their faces.

It always feels better to win with class than to win a game and feel bad afterward.

Related: Seven Mistakes I'll Never Make Again | Five Keys to Helping Teammates

Just as nobody likes a boastful winner, nobody likes a sore loser. A true test of character is how you act when things go wrong. To be a good sport, you must be able to maintain your character when you’re upset, not just when everything is perfect. After losing, you should always respectfully shake hands with the other team, no matter how disappointed you are.

Remember, the other team is not the enemy. They are there to compete, just like you are, and they earned their win.

It’s completely understandable to be upset after losing, but a good sport always congratulates the other team. They put in hours of hard work in preparation for the match, just as you did. They gave their best effort on the court, just as you did.

There is always one winner and one loser in volleyball. While everyone prefers to win, losing is part of the game. It’s vital that you remember the feeling of both outcomes and treat the other team just as you hope they would treat you.

Many times after a loss, people blame external factors. Whether it’s a bad call, the location of the match, loud crowds, or anything else along those lines, chances are they aren’t why you lost. One odd play can shift the momentum, but it’s never the whole story.

People like to pinpoint a specific play in the match as the reason for losing and blame it on one teammate. A good sport recognizes that many points are played and the few points that may be out of your control can’t overpower the ones you can control.

It’s easier to blame a loss on someone else than to take responsibility for it. Learn to accept the fact that you and your team were not good enough on that day to win the match. Instead of making excuses, use the loss to learn and get better so you are more prepared the next time.

Stop the Trash Talking

Another important aspect of sportsmanship is treating your opponent kindly before, during and after the match. In other words, don’t trash talk. Not only is it disrespectful, it’s also counterproductive. People often think talking trash will intimidate their opponent. All it really does is give the other team extra motivation to beat you. I know from experience that when another team is talking trash to my team, it lights a fire and makes us want to win even more.

Wins and losses are the only tangible statistics we have to measure the success of a season. It’s easy to get caught up in them and think that they are all that matters.

However, to maintain the fun, positive and competitive environment of volleyball, we must continue striving to be good sports and play the game the right way. Respect your opponents, maintain good character, and let your actions speak louder than words. Do these things and you will always be a success, no matter your team’s record.